I Am Just Me

I often come to visit this little blog of mine and leave before writing anything down. I'm not sure what it is. Maybe I can't quite figure out what this little piece of Internet is about?  Or perhaps I just don't have the words to express what I'm feeling at the time?  Mostly, I think I just don't think people will care what I have to say.  Which is just silly. I don't write for that reason. I write because I love the written word.  I may not be perfect, or even great at it, but who cares?  How often do we go to do something and don't because we think it won't matter, that people won't care, or that it won't be worth our time?  What matters is that we do what we feel compelled to do.  So here I am.  

"I am."  Self statements are often hard to answer for me. People want a big picture when they meet you. They want to try to understand who you are and what you love. While I understand who I am at the core, what I love is often changing or evolving and what I learn often shapes who I am a little more.  I AM always looking to learn more, be better, understand more fully- I guess.


Lately, my focus has centered around fitness, food, yoga, and obstacle course racing (OCR).  But I am still a musician, a writer, an artist, a book-lover, a wife, a mother, a friend, an introvert, the list goes on.  Here's my problem: how can I be all of those things at once?

The answer, of course, is: I can't.  Or at least, I can't DO all of those things at once.  I really struggle with this concept. Do you? I am constantly trying to fit all of these things into my day along with responsibilities like carting children around, cooking, cleaning, working, play dates, and TRYING to get to know people in my neighborhood- two years later.  You guys. I just can't do it all!  And it's so incredibly frustrating to me!

So, I start to let that negative self talk run rampant. The self that wants me to believe I'm not doing enough, I'm going to forget how to play the flute, that my vocal range is getting smaller, that I am no longer qualified to be a book lover because I struggle to read a novel a month, or that I am neglecting my children or my husband too much. 

Then I remember the importance of positive self-talk. I am a creature of many talents. I may not excel at all of them, but I do what I love when I can and it fulfills me.  Fitness, yoga and OCR has done WONDERS for my self esteem. To watch my body and mind become stronger is EMPOWERING.  To spend quality time with Matt as we conquer those races is a GIFT and I TREASURE that time. My kids do not feel neglected. They get plenty of love and attention from us. They also get to watch us fulfill our responsibilities and also reach past our limits and achieve goals together and sometimes they even join in!  More importantly, they say things like, "Look how strong I am, Mom!", "I am beautiful!", "Look how good I can draw a Cheetah!" In a world where women are constantly told they aren't enough in one way or another, I am so grateful to hear them say these wonderful things about themselves!  I hope I can be an example to them to reach high and dream big, or to just be brave enough to try something new.  If nothing else, I hope that they will continue to be kind to themselves and others.

I am still learning positive self-talk...and trying to release the negative thoughts that have filled my head over the years. It has taken me YEARS to learn to love myself exactly as I am.  I still struggle to do that sometimes and that's ok too.  Perfection is unattainable, and learning from mistakes is why we are here.  I am practicing being ok with my current focuses and circumstances. That everything really does have a season. 

This is a season of life where I have to choose my family before anything else, and fit in my own fulfillment around work and other responsibilities.  It is a season of never ending crumbs on the floor that will just have to wait until I get to them.  It is a season of story time before bed and working late because of it. A time of stolen moments alone with Matt.  This is a season of giving grace to myself for the things I can never get to and remembering to rejoice in all that I do accomplish.  Also, learning to be ok with the days I forget all these wonderful lessons I have learned. I AM...exactly who I am supposed to be.

So, if you're still here reading my jumbled thoughts I am not going to have time to edit, please accept this parting thought: Whatever you are doing, whoever you are, it is enough. We are all such awesome and precious people. We just need to remember it!

Today's thoughts were stirred up by watching this video today:


And for the men:


Happy Wednesday friends! Be kind to yourself and to others.

Be Yourself?

I was thinking about people.  I have a hard time when I meet people because I don't know how to navigate that stretch of time between all the initial information (name, job, life, etc) to when they allow me to really know them.  It's that acquaintance phase of friendship that is difficult for me.  I don't know how to act, or how much to share, or if someone wants to be friends or if they think I'm ridiculous.  Perhaps I just over analyze things too much.   

I am a pretty open person, yet I keep some things close to my heart until I feel safe enough to let people in.  I think everyone does this to some extent, and certainly some more than others.  We fear people seeing us just as we are.  That they might not like what they see.  It's that fear in us that makes us apologize to company when the house is a mess.  Or for how we look, what we say.  Deep within us lies an innate need to feel accepted.  To be truly seen and not judged.  There is a great amount of peace when a relationship reaches a point where you can truly be yourself without fear of rejection.  Sadly, these types of relationships are rare finds.

I came across this photo online today.  I thought it was so beautiful.  What if we could read the story of each person we meet?  How amazing would it be to have the instant ability to know another person's heart?  How many more friendships would we cultivate and how quickly would acceptance occur?  Instead of peeling back layers over time, we could cut right through to the core of someone.  So many of us hide our sorrow, our dark moments.  We all have pasts that hold our many mistakes.  No one has led a perfect life.  Yet we hesitate to share those dark moments with each other even though they are often the moments that shaped us the most.

Even our present moments are kept behind closed doors.  We don't want the neighbors to know that we can't keep a pristine house, or see that life has thrown us a huge curve ball and we have been in the same clothes for three days.  We don't want to be seen without make-up, or in our pajamas.  We apologize for our messy cars and our disorganized minds.  I once turned down some help I truly needed because I was too afraid to let someone into my mess.  By now you would think that we would all realize that perfection is as unattainable as unassisted flight. 

Over the years I have worked to fight off my tendency to hide who I really am.  I lived in the story that I am a perfectionist for so long that I was almost in denial that having kids had made my "perfect" tendencies almost impossible to actually live.  I have learned that the more I let people see me as I am, the more comfortable they are being themselves.  I have seen firsthand the relief in the eyes of someone when I claim or relate to their similar troubles.  Yet I still have a hard time trusting that the real me won't be shunned. 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
Wendy Mass, The Candymakers

I love this quote.  I see it often on social media and it is an excellent message.  Wouldn't it be even better, though, to let people into our battles so they can help?  In this age of virtual reality it is so easy to connect to people across the world.  But I fear that this kind of connection will never be a real one as we all tend to only show our best selves in the virtual world.  I am not suggesting that we air our dirty laundry to the world, but perhaps if a neighbor came over and saw that I had piles of dirty laundry, they might feel less worried about their own piles, right?

Since I work from home and I like my own company, I tend to abuse social media and forget to go see people in real life.  Yet it is those solid and real connections that I crave.  I want nothing more than to have friends within walking distance who will just show up at my house anytime and vice-versa.  I love to talk real life with people and share worries, joys, burdens and accomplishments.  I like to truly know people and be trusted with their hearts.  It's just that long acquaintance step I wish we could skip.  So, if I am awkward when I meet you, just know I am testing the waters.  Throw me a rope in the form of something real about yourself and I will gladly grab on.

Does anyone else experience this?  I wonder if more outgoing people feel differently than me?  What do you wish people knew about you? 

How Do You Fill Your Bucket?

I always thought I had to lose myself in Motherhood.

Don't get me wrong, in a lot of ways, we do.  The hours, the demands, the putting another person's interests before your own and so many other facets of motherhood, it changes you.  But when I became a mother I found that completely losing myself didn't work for me. In fact, it didn't work for my kids either.
 
I spent my first year of motherhood completely devoted to my Zoe.  When you have a newborn this is necessary in a lot of ways. They are completely dependent on you.  As they hit milestones they look to you to navigate them through rolling over, crawling, walking, eating, and playing. Not to mention it had taken us over two years to conceive her.  She was my sole focus in life before she ever even existed here on earth.  So I gave her my time.  Matt and I almost never went on dates or she would often come with us if we did. He was not my focus, let alone me.

After the first year I started to feel human again. I was done nursing, I started showering in the mornings again instead of whenever I could find a minute, I tried to get out of the house more.  Yet my days were still centered around Zoe's nap schedule. Life was still all about her. Then I got pregnant with Paige.

My second pregnancy was completely different from my first. I was down and out. If I was upright I was unbearably nauseous. Plus I had to take care of a 16 month old and still work. I was exhausted all the time. I felt like I could barely function.  As the pregnancy progressed, things got a bit easier, but it was a hard pregnancy and by the end of it, I was so completely done.

When Paige was born, I made her my world again. At the expense of Zoe and my marriage and especially myself.  She was a very sleepy baby, but only during the day. At night she was hard to get to sleep. Plus, she had acid reflux like her sister- making life with a baby and a two year old even harder. At the time, I was in survival mode. I felt I was barely hanging on, but I made it through the days and we found a routine.
 
Two months later my marriage fell apart.  

Now, there were many reasons for this, but what it really boiled down to was that we had not nurtured our relationship in a very long time and communication was not something we had worked at.  He had his faults and I had mine.  To say it was a difficult time is a massive understatement.  I was broken and in pain.
 
Almost overnight I became a single Mom with two small children and a job. I would stay up late at night and examine myself and my life.  I lost a lot of weight in a very short time.  As I stared into the mirror at the face that then looked so much like the face of my youth I realized I had no idea who I was anymore.  I was so lost in motherhood and in my image of myself as a wife that I had forgotten to hang on to the things that made me who I was.  My kids didn't know how much I loved music and writing.  Zoe had such a hard time gaining a sister because I had made her my whole world until that wasn't possible anymore.  I had given my family everything I had except what they really needed: Me.

It was at that moment that I discovered the most important lesson I have learned so far:

Motherhood doesn't require us to give up who we are.

So I made some immediate changes.  I started doing things that made me feel like myself.  Things I enjoyed.  I shared them with my children.  I let them hear me sing aloud in the house and play the piano.  I pulled out my flute.  I started writing again.  I thought for so long that doing these things, taking "time away from them" to do things I loved would be selfish.  I learned that our children need to see who we are.  They need to see what makes us special. 

Our children were sent to us for a reason.  We have talents and gifts that are best suited towards raising them to be the best people they can be.  Putting aside things we love, losing ourselves in our children, not remembering to care for ourselves is not a service to them or to us.  How will we raise them to have self confidence, to love who they are, to believe that they can be anyone or anything they choose to be if we don't set the example?

Matt and I fixed our marriage.  We learned the hard way what happens when a relationship isn't properly nourished.  We learned to communicate and to help each other become our best selves.  We learned that the best thing we can do for our kids together is provide them the stability and example of a good marriage.  Similarly, we must properly nourish ourselves so we don't fall apart.

The last few years I have explored this concept further.  I started running and got into fitness and healthy eating and really started paying attention to my body and my spirit.  I now know that in order to give my kids my best self, I have to take care of me, too. 

I have learned more about myself.  I know that I need to recharge after being around a lot of people.  I know that my temper is triggered by lack of sleep, stress, and feeling rushed.  I know that I feel more powerful and in control when I get a workout in every day- not to mention the endorphins, energy and the stress relief that gives me.  I know that when I provide my body with good food I have the energy to accomplish my tasks AND give my kids what they need from me.  I know that too much sugar makes my emotions less stable.  I know that reading scriptures, saying prayers, and allowing myself moments of silence throughout the day helps me to get my mind, body and spirit working together and in the right place.  I know that some days I just need to curl up with a good book, do yoga, write, or get in a good, mind-cleansing run.

Knowing all these things doesn't help me to be perfect, but it does help me to be a better Mother, wife, and person.

I look at it this way.  I have a bucket.  From this bucket I give my kids love, basic care, a listening ear, playtime, taxi service, help with homework as well as trying to teach them to love our Heavenly Father and be kind human beings.  Also from this bucket I love and support my husband and give him what he needs from me.  The bucket provides the means to fulfill responsibilities to my job and in my home.  It is where I find my ability to fulfill my church callings and my ability to serve others.  The bucket is how I remember to nurture the important relationships in my life.  Or do necessary things like buy the groceries and pay the bills.  The bucket allows me to do everything I need to do in my life.  If that bucket is empty, how can I possibly accomplish all these things?  I have to fill up that bucket regularly if I am going to keep using it.

My little world needs that bucket...and that bucket is ME! 

I am not saying that we should be selfish.  I am not saying to ignore your baby's screaming to finish a workout.  I am not saying to lock yourself in your room with a book for a whole day and let your toddler run freely.  Or that being a devoted Mom is a bad thing.  I am not saying that a newborn baby doesn't take every ounce of time and energy you have.  I am not telling you to exercise!  I am not saying you aren't enough because you ARE!

I am just suggesting that by taking better care of ourselves, perhaps we learn to better care for others.  Or, at least, we offer the best of what we have. There will come a time as a person, a wife, a mother, a parent, a friend, or even an employee that you will feel depleted.  You will feel like you can't stay upright, you cannot give another ounce, you cannot take another step, lift another finger.  Your bucket will be empty or close to it.  When that time comes you will need to know who you are and what you need to do to keep going. 

How do you fill your bucket?



 

Quieting the Chaos

Often, after I settle my girls in bed, my evenings are spent working or laying on the couch watching television or cleaning the kitchen.  Tonight as I sat down to turn on the TV I hesitated as I noticed the calm peace that had settled over my home.  Not wanting to disturb that peace, I turned here instead.

Lately my family has had a difficult time getting along.  When I say my family, I mean every single one of us.  I have been tired and grumpy and stressed.  Matt has felt similar feelings and also has work issues he carries home with him.  The girls and I are desperately trying to get back into our normal routine after a difficult month in March.  They are fighting a lot more, arguing with us, being disobedient, lazy, pushing our buttons harder.  I told a friend today that I sometimes feel like my kids have been replaced with rude aliens.  When my kids are acting up and I am not at my best and most energetic, well, let's just say that my attitude probably doesn't help much.

Tonight we were having another rough evening.  Everyone's tone of voice was on edge.  There was so much contention going on!  Matt and I were both exhausted and trying to get dinner made.  My home felt chaotic and unsettled and I felt like we were all going to either explode or kill each other if I didn't do something to change our environment and our attitudes.  So I took the advice my Mother gave me as a small child when we talked about what I could do when I was angry or scared or unsettled: I turned to the Hymns. 

Thank goodness for technology!  I opened up the Pandora app on my phone and plugged it into the speaker and bathed my home and my family in Hymns.  Within moments I felt more peaceful.  Within minutes, my kids were getting along and laughing as Zoe worked on her math program for school as Paige watched.  Matt calmed down and got a bit of rest on the couch as I finished up the dishes. 

I have a strong belief and testimony of the power of good music in our lives.  I have always felt the Spirit of my Heavenly Father strongest through music.  It is through using my talents that I am able to most fully express myself and my testimony.  Maybe it isn't that way for everyone.  I know that music speaks to me in a different way than it does to others.  It is almost as if music is my most innate language.  Music skips words and thought and just goes directly to my heart. 

The music flowing through my home this evening changed our environment, softened our hearts and allowed the Spirit to calmly reside here.  That one decision changed the entire course of our evening.  No, my kids weren't perfect, but they were better and I was far more patient and understanding.  We ended the evening with scriptures and prayers, a song for each of them and a few giggles and I feel so much better about how the end of the day played out.  I was able to stop and really appreciate them for who they are.  I was able to really enjoy them.

I know I have been so blessed every time I look at my family.  We are so fortunate to have a roof over our heads, to have our basic needs not just met but exceeded, to have insurance and good jobs, but most of all to have each other.  When life gets hectic and busy it is so easy for me to get frustrated with the attitudes of my kids.  Or when they get really needy when I am doing something.  When I am tired it is easy to say I don't want to play house right now.  But the thing is, it really is just as easy to do the opposite- if I can bring peace to myself and my home.

I need to always remember to stop and take the time to invite peace into my home and into my heart so that I can always give my children my best self instead of my crazy, frustrated self.  Tonight those Hymns helped me to do that.  Tomorrow that may look like 10 minutes of decompression and meditation in my room.  Or yoga before bed to quiet my mind and my soul.  It could be five deep breaths in the pantry.  I have plenty of tools before me.  I have learned these lessons.  I just need to remember to put them into practice every day.

Now I'm off to get some work done as I enjoy this quiet I have created in my space.  I hope you all have a peaceful evening!

I know that Hymns may not work for everyone.  Especially those who believe differently than me.  What do you do to bring peace to your home or to yourself?  What quiets the chaos in your life or in your heart? Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Lessons I Learned From Yoga

On Thursday mornings you will most often find me leading a yoga class before the sun rises with some pretty amazing women.  Yoga has always been something I was interested in and would do occasionally.  It was a gentle way to stretch and strengthen my body.  Over the last year, it has become a deeper thing and a more regular part of my life.

I went from loving yoga to leading a class in about five seconds after a sweet friend basically told me to do it and that I could. So, I believed her, and I did. Let me tell you, those first few classes were scary! I didn't know these women very well yet, and I was afraid of judgment and doing it wrong.  As time went on, I felt more confident- partially because of the sweet support of my friends.  Now I am writing new sequences all the time, reading books, doing research, finding new poses and different ways to combine them, and sharing my love of yoga with anyone who will listen.

Yoga has been such an integral and positive thing in my life and I am so grateful for the push I received to make it a priority.  This point in my life is a time of learning and absorbing for me. I know that without my yoga practice I would not be as open to learning as I am now.  Yoga has helped me learn to process my thoughts, learn deep breathing and meditation, learn to control my breath and my heart rate- which helps me so much to not panic in every day life.  It has made me stronger and more confident in my body and abilities.  Yoga, practiced often, has increased my strength and flexibility mentally, emotionally and physically.  Most importantly, though, it has taught me that I can do hard things, that I can remove the chaos from my mind, and that I can control my focus.  These tools have been so helpful to me, completely outside of exercise. 

Today, after yoga, I took some time to be still, to read my scriptures, to say a prayer and really allow the Spirit in for the day.  Yoga opens my mind and body up to so much that I felt a huge difference, a calm peace fell over me and I received it because I was open to doing so.  When I got up this morning I was tired and sore and I didn't feel I would get much out of yoga today.  I need to, in those early moments of the day, remember what yoga brings to my life. It is one of my tools to support myself in being open to receive good things and release bad things, to allow me to be closer to my Heavenly Father, to find and tune into whatever my focus is for the day.  Today, I realized the full value of something I have come to truly love and the lesson that I learned from it, and want to share with you, is to find what opens you up. Find what allows you to bring goodness into yourself and helps you to focus. Find whatever that is and practice it often. You will be amazed at the difference it makes in your life when you are open to receive and allowing your true self to come forward.  Have a beautiful day! Namaste.

That Mom

I am that Mom. You know, the one who can't ever get the laundry folded. I come into my bedroom every night to find the clean piles I managed to separate into baskets dumped all over the floor in a child's eager attempt to find pajamas or underwear. I am the Mom who's bathroom desperately needs to be cleaned. Who really needs to vacuum. I am the Mom who sometimes has trouble getting showered for the day. I often have dishes piled in the sink and crumbs on the floor. I am the Mom who has to apologize to my kids often.  I am the impatient Mom, pushing them to move a little faster, be a little better, go a little farther.  I lose my temper or hurt their feelings or get frustrated with them for being who they are.  I am the Mom who just can't deal with the paint or the play dough today.  Or play that game one more time.  I am the Mom who "can't right now because I have to work." 

I am also the Mom who suggests impromptu family bike rides/walks after a stressful day. I am the Mom who works late at night so I can sometimes take my kids to the park instead.  I am the Mom who sometimes takes my kids up on their invitation to play "house" and manages to survive young girls pretending to be teenagers with boyfriends who's names are eerily the same as their Dad's. I am the Mom who holds storytime and sometimes does voices.  I am the Mom who puts my girls to bed a little late because I gave them some quiet one-on-one time to talk with me.  I am the Mom who teaches my children to be kind above all else, to be grateful for everyone and everything they have, and to always do their best.  I am the Mom who tries to help my children understand their Heavenly Father and how to talk to Him.  I am the Mom who's children know how loved they are. Who tries to always impart to them just how proud I am of them.  

I lay here tonight in bed thinking over the day.  All the failures, everything that didn't get done. All the frustrations, the conflicts, the issues, the fact that I am once again going to bed way too late, and trying to find a positive in a rough day.  I just need to remind myself that, despite all my shortcomings as a Mom, as a wife, as a woman, as a person, as a daughter of God, I am enough. What I did today, it was enough.  Tomorrow is a new day. And yes, I fully intend to make tomorrow better. I may fail. I will make mistakes. I probably will still not get to clean my bathroom, or do every fun thing my kids want me to, or get that pile of laundry folded.  But tonight my daughter cried after I reminded her again just exactly how proud and lucky I am to be her Mother. She fell into my arms and said, "I just love you so much!"  My other daughter beamed at hearing that I was proud of her for simply being herself. The day may not have been the best, but the way it ended tells me that I am doing ok. It is enough for today.  I will always, always try to do better than my best for them. I will never be completely satisfied with my performance as their Mom.  I will keep learning, keep trying, keep striving for balance.  But, I am that Mom who fiercely loves my kids, and they fiercely love me too. And that is more than enough for today.

(I know it has been a while since I have written. I just had all these thoughts exploding in my head so I thought I would write them here in case someone else needed to hear them too.  And just in case that is you, know this: You are enough, too.)  Goodnight!!

Kindergarten

Tomorrow is my baby's first day of Kindergarten . 

Just let that sink in for a moment....

Remember way back when, towards the very beginning of this blog, when I struggled to conceive? 

Remember how we were finally blessed with a beautiful little angel that we named Zoe? 

It seems like just yesterday she was born and yet, TOMORROW, she is going to Kindergarten.

I simply can't believe it.


There are so many things I'm worried about.  What if kids are mean to my little tender heart?  What if she learns terrible habits from other kids?  What if she gets sick all the time?  What if something happens and she is scared to tell me?  What if she doesn't have any friends?  What if her teacher doesn't recognize her strengths?  What if...

Deep down I know she'll be ok.  I know this is a new chapter in her life, a chapter I crossed into once.  I turned out just fine.  I know this and yet I can still hear her upstairs awake at 10:30 at night and when I ask her why she says she can't sleep because she is nervous about Kindergarten.  And what do I say?  She has every right to be nervous.  So I remind her about the great things to expect in Kindergarten and tell her to get some rest so she is not exhausted tomorrow and it's the best I can do.

Tomorrow I have to release her into the world's hands.  I will still be there to guide her, but I will no longer be her only lighthouse.  Others will enter her world as people who can lead and guide her.  All I can do is pray that the ones she listens to will be good influences.

That is an awful lot to ask of a parent...especially one like me with some control issues.

I get teary-eyed just thinking about letting her walk through the doors of the school.  Thinking about how I will miss her constant singing and talking.  How much I will miss that entire morning of the next year of Monday-Fridays spending time with her.  Or just having her around.  I will miss her giggle when she makes me laugh or finds something funny.  I will even miss her arguing with her sister...and especially miss her watching out for her sister. 

Instead I have a school telling she has 10 vacation days from school and that a doctors note might be needed for sick days.  A school is now going to tell me what to do with my child and when?  That's a hard pill to swallow. 

On the other hand, I value education so much.  And my child loves to learn.  School presents new opportunities for learning and growth, which is something I want for my Zoe.  I see her strengths, I see her doing well in school.  Her bubbly personality will attract friends, and I pray that her kind heart will not be taken advantage of.  I am so excited for her and yet so scared for her.

I guess I echo her sentiments when I asked if she was excited about school tomorrow.  She said, "Yes, but I'm still a little nervous."

I will never be ready to let her go, but I will anyway because that's what parents do.  We teach them what we can and then we let them fly.  They fly further and further, a little more each time until someday it's time to let them fly free and live their lives.  And we hope we did our best to prepare them.  I hope I have done my best to prepare her for this next step.  Time will tell.

Send me positive thoughts tomorrow please...and even more for her Dad.  He might just be worse off than me.